NASA Johnson Space Center
Orion Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
Houston, TX – 16 August 2016
Ross-Nazzal: Today is August 8th, 2016. This interview with Paul Marshall
is being conducted for the Orion Oral History Project in Houston,
Texas. The interviewer is Jennifer Ross-Nazzal, assisted by Sandra
Johnson. Thanks again for taking some time out of your very busy day.
Yes, my pleasure.
We appreciate it. I wanted to start by asking you about Orion and
this multi-Center approach. NASA’s got all these different Field
Centers. They’re spread across the country. There’s different
cultural attitudes, and regional differences between all these Centers.
What impact did that have on Orion’s hardware, processes, or
development? If you could share those details with us.
First of all, all of our programs have always been multi-Center: human
spaceflight, spacecraft development, Space Station, whatever. They’ve
always been that way. We’ve always been used to working with
colleagues at other Centers. What we did try to do this time was engage
the Centers in a slightly different way. Traditional approach was
setting up individual project offices in other Centers, which was
sort of a level of separation, if you will, between that entity and
the Program. I know when we started in the ’06 timeframe, I
guess, [we were] working on defining the relationships with the Centers.
One of the things we wanted to do was flatten that out and engage
the Centers, I suppose, in a more collaborative way by making them,
essentially, part of the Program Office, direct report offices, just
like offices that may be physically located here, at JSC. We started
that with written agreements with the Center Directors at the time.
We spent a number of weeks, or months, working with the Center Directors’
offices kind of working through how to articulate the agreement.
Some of the things we felt [were] really important not having to set
up another set of contracts, for example. We wanted one contract,
and what we needed was workforce to help manage aspects of the contract
so at Langley [Research Center, Hampton, Virginia]—it was LAS
[Launch Abort System] at the time. At Glenn [Research Center, Cleveland,
Ohio], we were engaging them to manage the service module.
And, of course, at any of the Centers, we created the expectation
for, and certainly the ability to do, any of the offices could engage
specific skills or workforce at other Centers in a matrix however
it was necessary. Just like we matrix support from engineering here
at JSC, we could ask a Center like Langley or Glenn, “Hey, look.
We need a particular skill that we think you have in this guy, or
this office is the right thing. Can we set up a point-to-point agreement
where they would work for, let’s say, our Vehicle Integration
Office that happens to be based here, but drawing in some resources
We have a lot of examples of doing that. For example, one big part
of system engineering, obviously, is requirements control. So our
System Engineering, or Vehicle Integration Office, is headed up here
at JSC, but early on, we worked with some really, really talented
people up at Glenn. We matrixed, essentially, all of that requirements
management process up there, which felt funny at the time, but it’s
worked out really well, because there are great folks up there and
good processes. Any more, with all the gadgets we have for transferring
data and that sort of thing, it’s worked out perfectly. It’s
two different kinds of relationships with other offices. They’re
just somewhat different especially on the office manager roles. The
Langley LAS role and the Glenn service module roles [are] somewhat
different than we’ve done in the past. Does that get to the
Absolutely, yes. I also wanted to ask you about working with international
partners. ESA [European Space Agency] is building the ESM [European
Service Module]. Can you talk about that relationship and the impact
that that’s had on Orion?
Yes. Of course, it’s no surprise—it’s not going
to be a shock to anybody, we don’t do that to make it easy.
There’s some very clear political benefits for having an international
partnership. It goes back to the language of the authorization, the
NASA Authorization of 2010, coming out of the proposed cancellation
of Constellation. That formal legislative language was very clear
in drawing in the international partners for doing exploration. Going
back to the Augustine Commission, prior to that, the Augustine Commission,
and all aspects of the policy that was articulated at that time, and
really since, it’s quite clear that for us to be successful
in really doing these ambitious solar system exploration missions,
the expectation is we will do it as an international partnership of
spacefaring nations. We saw an opportunity to step out and take that
first step for essentially expanding the partnership that we’ve
established since Space Station forward into these exploration missions.
This initial agreement was enabled by Space Station with some allocation
of the operations’ cost-sharing agreements that we have. They
were able to allocate some of that and essentially direct it. There
was an agreement, but we agreed to allow Europe to spend some of their
obligation that they had to the United States for Space Station on
this part of it, so that was the foundation of the relationship. It’s
a direct lineage for the Space Station playing forward into exploration.
Most of us have experience working in the Space Station partnership,
so we’re familiar with the people. We’re familiar with
the challenges. Sure enough, we found out that it’s still challenging
and hard to do some of that spacecraft development activity in that
international partnership domain, but we’re working every day
with the Europeans, and we’re finding ways to move it forward.
They’re responding. They’re very, very capable and know
that we’ll move that into a real service module for EM [Exploration
Mission]-1 and on.
You did mention that it’s challenging to do spacecraft development.
Can you give some examples or elaborate further on that?
I guess one of the things I’d say is we are highly tuned and
highly sensitive to meeting our schedule commitments. Those are U.S.
commitments with [NASA] Headquarters [Washington, DC]. We’re
also working our own political sensitivities to doing things like
meeting schedule and all. Some of that is difficult to translate.
We know the Europeans have their own set of challenges in how they
contract and how they work. When you work with the Europeans, you’re
working with another 11 countries or more. It’s very complicated,
and things move slowly.
Ever since 2010, especially since 2010, we’ve been very much
working hard to be aggressive, and move fast, and do things as innovatively
as we can to move things forward quickly. Again, those are just hard
things to translate, not translate language-wise, but hard to share
motivation sometimes, if you will. Again, they’re working through
some very hard challenges themselves. They’re responding, and
I anticipate we’ll have a good partnership. That’s an
Another example is the Europeans started with some assumptions that
they’re going to do an extension of their ATV [Automated Transfer
Vehicle] that they built for Space Station. So a lot of their programmatic
assumptions were based on that. It turns out building a service module
for deep space exploration is somewhat different than that, from an
architecture and system design perspective. There were some things
that were found out later that makes it hard for them to meet cost
commitments and things like that on their side. We’ve been working
very hard with them to find solutions for those things, too.
Could you talk about how the ESD [Exploration Systems Development
Division] CSI [Cross-Program Systems Integration] Initiative impacted
How it impacted Orion? The nugget of the idea of having a simplified
program-to-program integration process was something that was hatched
by system leaders within the programs, even as ESD was forming. ESMD
[Exploration Systems Mission Directorate], before them, separate from
HEO [Human Exploration and Operations], was brought in to HEO, ESD
was formed. As those things were forming, those were the days when
it was very clear that one of the major points of the proposed cancellation
and anything we’re going to do moving forward is based on our
ability to drive costs down. Do things more efficiently.
We were very interested in pulling on that string to start characterizing
how we can do that, to keep the program-to-program integration infrastructure
as small as possible. The dedicated independent integration infrastructure,
to keep that as small as possible, relying on the integration infrastructure
that each program has starting with the ability for the, if you will,
organic integration functions within the three program entities to
do integration to get across the programs was the first step. That’s
what we tried to advocate very much. To understand what capacity was
there, and what we could do.
And, of course, as ESD formed, they were formed with this assumption,
too. This was something that I think were all shared motivations.
It became evident to us that there is a construct that we could [adopt].
Now, there was a lot of concern, especially from the outside, whether
it’s some of the leadership inside NASA, or some over the external
oversight folks that we have, to assure that we don’t lose some
of the benefits of having independent integration, making sure that
no one part of the architecture gets optimized over the other.
To maintain that enterprise, we started calling it enterprise-wide
architecture, making sure that was optimized for what the enterprise
needs. We were held accountable to find ways to structure our program-to-program
interactions with some of the ESD resources that were drawn in, so
that we could show that that integration process had authority and
accountability, visibility, at the ESD level. We were showing that
while we’re doing this integration program-to-program initially,
and [in many ways] still [today], that we did it in a way that had
a governance feature that tied to ESD. [We] have found it to work
For one thing, it allows us to work integration problems that are
highest priority right now, so we’re able to better set the
phasing of when we work things a little bit better, in some respects.
We have found that it costs a lot less and is very effective in knocking
When you ask, “What are the impacts of the program?”,
I think we have found that it engages our integration workforce more
effectively in that program-to-program domain. There’s fewer—you
get in trouble with this sometimes—fewer artificial integration
communication paths by having a large infrastructure of both the programs.
Since we have fewer of those things, our integration resources inside
the program are, on balance, smaller than we had before.
Now, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of program-to-program,
Center-to-Center interaction, but I think all of those things are
really good, really good byproducts of making this structure for integration
work, actually. I’ve been very pleased with it. I think that
the agency leadership is appreciating more and more how well we’ve
been able to make it work. That the issues are being solved. That
it’s not driving costs artificially. Yes, there are some costs,
obviously, when you solve some of these problems, and we work together
to solve them. That hasn’t always happened that way.
In the past, some of the cost-bearing changes—they’re
inevitable in program-to-program integration. Anything that’s
cost-bearing has always in the past been a battle. I think we have
found we are not always able to resolve them, but most of the time
we’re able to: one, drive the cost as small as possible and
as soon as possible within those discussions, and two, more times
than not, the programs that are involved are able to come up with
agreements. “You take this part, I’ll take that part,”
and show how we can resolve some of these integration problems within
the resources that we have, largely. I think it’s worked really
I wanted to talk about EFT [Exploration Flight Test]-1. Were you there
for the launch, landing, and recovery?
What are your recollections of that day?
It was an interesting day. I was charged with a different kind of
job. Administrator [Charles F.] Bolden had a large set of VIPs [Very
Important Persons] that they gathered in the OSB [Operations Support
Building]-II office building down at KSC [Kennedy Space Center, Florida].
I was a briefer that day. There’s a number of us briefing about
the mission, ESD, and everything. This is a group of cabinet secretaries,
and generals, and admirals, and the VIPs of the Agency, CEOs [Chief
Executive Officers], and others. It was a very exciting day. Very
exciting time to do that, and it was a lot of fun to provide a descriptive
briefing on something as fun as this was. Helping folks understand
what we were doing, and what we were accomplishing, and how far we
had come, and what this means for exploration going forward.
The planned first day, we did that. We got up at three in the morning
and got together early to do that. The planned launch time was like
seven a.m. or something, so we did all this in the wee hours. Of course,
the first day it was scrubbed. We had a couple of issues, a ship was
in the way and other things. It just delayed things, so we came back
the next day. We didn’t do the briefings again, but I went over
there again and was available to answer questions and answered a lot
of questions. Folks just came up, and talked, and that was a lot of
fun, to be [with] the Hill staffers, and the cabinet secretaries,
and undersecretaries, and staffers for them, and others. Folks that
we don’t normally interact with directly just share the excitement
of it on a personal basis.
The other thing I remember about that day was OSB-II has this big
patio on the fifth floor or something that overlooks the launch range
and the launch pad for the Delta IV Heavy was on the horizon, at a
safe distance away, obviously. We’re further away than a lot
of folks, but I was standing on this patio. I’m tall so I’m
hanging back and watching it. We have liftoff. It goes through the
clouds. We see it poking between the clouds.
The next thing I know, I am being bear-hugged by this big guy. I turn
around, and—our [former] boss, Dan [Daniel] Dumbacher, who ran
ESD for a number of years [by that time he had left NASA], and we
[all] worked for him, was very much a prime driver for EFT-1. [He]
was just so happy. He’s a big man. He’s picking me up.
Was just almost in tears, “We did this. We did this.”
That really sticks with me, and always will, because we all had a
hand in doing something that was hard to do.
It was hard to convince the Agency to do [EFT-1] for a lot of reasons.
A lot of folks staked a lot of personal capital on seeing that we
could create a rationale that was able to be owned by everybody in
the discussion at the time. It was just a very, very unsettled time
in the Agency with lots of different perspectives, lots of conflicting
points. It took a long time for us to draw the Agency together. I
think we largely are now. At the time that we got EFT approved in
the ’11 timeframe, things were very hard. Folks like Dan put
a lot of himself, along with Mark [S.] Geyer, and a lot of the other
leaders that we had and have. That moment of launch just meant so
much to us. That was [just] one of the ways that it was expressed:
One big guy picking up another big guy with this giant bear hug. I
didn’t see it coming, but I sure knew it was there when it got
That paints a nice visual. Tell us about the rest of the mission,
and landing, and recovery. What are some memories of that day for
So of course, from this, I didn’t have any operational duties,
but I did wind my way back to the operations room that we had set
up at Kennedy on the Air Force side. I sat in the back of the room
and just monitored the flight and marveled like everyone else how
well it was going, and how little we needed to correct in-flight.
We got some good videos, and we saw some amazing videos when were
at the apogee. The excitement of initiating the entry process and
going through it, losing contact, coming through.
One of the more amazing things we ended up seeing during that entry
process was—the folks at Armstrong [Flight Research Center,
Edwards, California] were flying a UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle],
unpiloted aircraft, with some great cameras. We actually didn’t
know if they were going to be able to find this thing, but they did.
Oh my gosh, they got such a wonderful image of this capsule firing
through the atmosphere. By that time, we were looking sideways against
the clouds, so we had a contrast, and just got a sense of how fast
the thing was moving before the parachute started deploying. It was
a spectacular and surprising image that those guys were able to get
in the entry process.
Of course, it all led to a successful splash-down. Just because I
was interested, I lingered a while in the control room as the GSDO
[Ground Systems Development and Operations] folks took over the recovery
process. Saw how well the U.S. Navy responded to what we found, and
in some cases didn’t find when the parachutes sank. Just how
well that process worked for us, and saw the excitement of the GSDO
folks working through the recovery process, pulling it in, berthing
it in the well deck ship, and how well that worked, especially compared
to some of the early tests that we had with the well deck ships, and
found out that what we were doing was so unique the Navy guys didn’t
really know how the dynamics were going to work. Over the course of
many months and tests, they really worked out a great way to recover
the spacecraft, so it was great.
Ross-Nazzal: You mentioned that you all had a hand in seeing the success
of the mission. Would you talk about what you think is your most important
contribution to seeing that come to fruition?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. My job is one of
those that’s described as doing a little of everything and a
master of none of them, very broad and with a lot of varying responsibilities.
I suppose what I most directly contributed to was helping to craft
how we were articulating the rationale and objectives for the tests.
How we could show that we were connecting this flight to objectives
that drew in the other programs: SLS [Space Launch System] and the
GSDO folks. Showing that while most of the flight test was focused
on Orion spacecraft objectives, that to do it, to make it successful,
we were really exercising important roles from all the programs: hardware
that was built by SLS; some of the procedures at GSDO for loading
consumables like propellant, and ammonia, and other things; and then,
of course, the recovery process the GSDO led for us all. I helped
communicate that, and then along the way as we were executing EFT,
we were also bringing the program, essentially, back to life.
As we do that, we got attention again from all of the external auditors:
the GAO [Government Accountability Office], and the IG [Inspector
General], and the ASAP [Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel]. The large
tapestry of xyz organizations that evaluate us along the way. Every
one of those created a new opportunity to explain what we were doing,
and why. I think all of that contributed to the advocacy process in
its own way. I’d say that’s my main contribution.
Well, I think we have touched on all the questions that I was thinking
of, unless there was something else that you wanted to address today.
Nothing that I can think of. I appreciate you doing this work, capturing
what we can from folks.
Yes. It’s been really interesting, so thank you for giving us
Yes, our pleasure. That’s good.
[End of interview]